Dubai, that glittering hotspot of glamor and glitz has come to be known as the default holiday destination in the UAE. This is because Dubai, firstly, is a very visually appealing city. It’s beautifully planned, it is beyond neat and the government has gone out of its way to ensure that all of a visitor’s needs are met. Dubai’s rulers have this penchant of creating amazing wonders that have catapulted Dubai into the Guinness Book of Records, time and again. Whatever you dream of – incredible sales bargains, permanently-sunny beaches, mind-blowing delights every corner – you’ll find it in Dubai.
1. Burj Khalifa – The One and the Only
It’s hard to look away from this beautiful, curving structure that reaches out and pierces the clouds with its almost invisible tip. Standing proud at 829.8 meters, the Burj is unarguably the tallest building in the world. Book a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor, at sunrise if possible, and feast your eyes on the most staggering view of the Dubai skyline, the desert and far into the ocean. State-of-the-art telescopes line the observation deck and there are multimedia presentations to watch onthe Burj Khalifa’s construction process. The Burj is wrapped around with winding walkways, fabulous gardens and the Dubai Fountain.
2. Shop like Royals at Dubai’s Malls!
Did you know that Dubai has only 3 million people, but has 65 malls? There are 10 more getting constructed, plus a megamall called Dubai Square which will be the biggest in the world. Start your shopping with Dubai’s premier mall, Dubai Mall, with 1500 retail outlets and 150 food outlets, a real-to-goodness gold ATM, an ice-skating rink, cinema complex and more. The Mall of the Emirates is home to Ski Dubai, a cinema complex, many rides and shopping and eating options. Check out some of the other malls – Marina Mall, City Walk, Dubai Festival City, Mercato Mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, WAFI Mall and Dubai Marina Mall.
3. Al Fahidi Quarter and Old Dubai
The tax-free, pearl and coral-rich Dubai tempted the Persians to build Al Fahidi Quarter along the Dubai Creek, in Bur Dubai’s eastern side. You can see the beautiful buildings made of limestone and black coral, topped with wind-towers, an early form of air conditioning. The cobbled lanes, the Majlis Gallery, the Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, cafes and small souqs are enchanting. The galleries exhibit traditional Arabian ceramics, among other pieces. Visit Deira across the Dubai Creek, where a plethora of traditional souks sell spices of all kinds – cumin, paprika, saffron, frankincense, sumac, and thyme, rose water, incense and oud wood. Check out the 1890-built Heritage House and visit Dubai’s oldest school, the Al-Ahmadiya, built in 1912.
4. Jumeirah Mosque – Beauty and Tradition
Perhaps the loveliest of Dubai’s mosques, Jumeirah Mosque is the only one that entertains people of all faiths to visit. This mosque is a copy of the ginormous Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. Constructed in the medieval Fatimid tradition, the Jumeirah Mosque’s two stone and white marble dome glow softly when the floodlights are lit at night. Visit the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding to learn more about Dubai’s mosques. The center organizes guided tours of the Jumeirah Mosque at 10 A.M. every day, except on Fridays, one of the popular tourist attractions in Dubai.
5. Dubai Frame – Framing the Old and New
The Dubai Frame is a picture frame 150-meters tall, which more or less ‘frames’ Old Dubai and modern Dubai, depending on which way you look at it. The Dubai Frame’s many galleries showcase the city’s history through artefacts and multimedia presentations. Visit the Sky Deck, the glass bridge connecting the two columns of the Dubai Frame for spectacular panoramas of Dubai – both old and new. It’s time then to get an eyeful of what Dubai intends for its future, in the Future Dubai gallery, one of the best Dubai tourist attractions.
6. The Dubai Desert– Top Destination for Royals!
The amazing Dubai Desert is the top destination for UAE’s royals, who were nomads once upon a time. Sign up for an incredible desert safari and enjoy delights such as – dune bashing, sand boarding, quad biking, ATV riding, camel riding, horse riding and so on. During the evenings, a fabulous Emirati barbeque dinner is laid on, complete with BBQ meats and veggies, salads, fragrant rice dishes, desserts and non-alcoholic drinks. You’ll enjoy this dinner to the accompaniment of cultural performances – belly dancing, tanura dancing, fire dancing and henna tattooing. Add extras such as sunrise and sunset photography, night safaris and overnight stays and the magical desert experience is complete.
7. Dubai’s State-of-the-Art Tours
Best way to see more of Dubai in a short time? Opt for a city tour –a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, a dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek, Dubai Canal and the Dubai Marina. All along the Sheikh Zayed Road are tall structures of chrome, towering glass and steel best seen from the hop-off-hop-on double-decker, open-top Big Bus. You can hop off the bus to spend time at an attraction, and then hop back on the next bus in the same line. The Big Bus stops at the Dubai World Trade Tower, from whose observation deck you can enjoy panoramic views of Dubai, much cheaper than the Burj Khalifa. You can also visit the 118 jewelry stores at the Gold and Diamond Park as well.
8. Fantasy Underwater World at Dubai Aquarium
The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo offers a fabulous way to experience more than 140 species of sea life, housed in Dubai Mall’s ground floor in the 10 million liter suspended tank. At the Underwater Zoo you’ll go through acrylic tunnels right under the sea, within kissing distance of dangerous Hammerhead and other killer sharks, poisonous manta rays, huge octopi, schools of colorful fish, and various other species that you have never seen. The aquarium offers glass-bottom boat tours as well, on top of the suspended tank, apart from shark diving and cage snorkeling.
9. Burj al-Arab – Royal High Tea
The world’s tallest and only 7-Star hotel, the royal Burj Al-Arab is an iconic marvel that stands proud on the Dubai coast on its own artificial island. Resembling a dhow sail in motion, the hotel’sexterior is clad in black glass which light up during the nightly choreographed light show. Book dinner for two at the opulent underwater Al-Mahara restaurant, to enjoy fabulous sea views from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. High tea at the Skyview Bar on the 27th floor offers amazing views. It’s gold, gold and more gold everywhere all over the Burj al Arab. The top suite costs 25,000 USD a night and comes with its own personal butler and gold toilets.
10. Dubai Parks and Resorts – Fantasy Unlimited!
Dubai Parks and Resorts comprises several world-class theme parks; uniquely Dubai, and well worth your Dubai tourist visa. There’s LEGOLAND and LEGOLAND Waterpark for kids with their rides, wave pool, Lego construction, water slides, and wave pool – keeps them busy and out of your hair. Then there’s Motiongate, with immersive and interactive rides based on Hollywood action blockbusters. If you love Hindi movies, check out Bollywood Parks for fantastic stage shows and rides based on hit Bollywood movies. Riverland Dubai is a dining hub where you can relax, after tiring yourself out with the theme park’s activities.
We’ve only covered 10 of Dubai’s fabulous attractions, but there are 100s more. There are the more visible and therefore more popular ones such as IMG Worlds of Adventure. There are not so visible but equally enchanting attractions such as Dubai’s museums, beaches, parks, mosques, viewpoints, artist districts and much more. You’ll need to make a number of visits to truly enjoy Dubai!